A common response to evidence that US soldiers have abused and even tortured to death prisoners of war in Iraq is to claim that it is all the work of a few "bad apples", and that the difference between the US and the terrorists is that, when such abuses are discovered, the US punishes those responsible.
FORT CARSON, Colo. (AP) - A military jury has recommended that an officer once facing up to life in prison for the interrogation death of an Iraqi general be given only a reprimand, a decision that drew applause from soldiers.
Initially charged with murder, Chief Warrant Officer Lewis Welshofer Jr. now faces no jail time, the forfeiture of $6,000 in salary and what amounts largely to a barracks restriction for 60 days.
I've blogged about this case before: Major General Abed Hamed Mowhoush, an insurgent leader, turned himself in after US forces took his family hostage. His US captors decided he was being insufficiently cooperative during interrogations, and he was beaten to within an inch of his life by CIA personnel and Iraqi paramilitaries working in a US facility. Over the next few days, he was subjected to further beatings, waterboarded, and eventually stuffed into a sleeping bag and sat on while he asphyxiated. Welshofer was the "bad apple" who killed him, but he has not been punished. Instead, his fellow soldiers seem to think that what he did to his prisoner was perfectly acceptable and that he should not even have been facing charges.
The message this sends is crystal clear: torture is acceptable. If a US soldier tortures a prisoner, even to death, they will face no real penalty. Instead, the US government will look the other way, while claiming publicly that these actions "[do] not reflect the nature of the American people". Unfortunately, by condoning those actions, they make it very clear that they do. They also make it clear that, rather than being "bad apples", America's torturers are the poison fruit of a poison tree, the natural consequence of an administration which endorses torture and a society which simply does not care what their government does in their name.